Auto show puts spark in dealers


POSTED: Friday, April 02, 2010

The 3.9 percent increase in attendance at this year's First Hawaiian International Auto Show could translate to revved-up sales for dealers.

Show producer Motor Trend magazine does not release raw attendance numbers, but the increase was encouraging, said Dave Rolf, executive director of the Hawaii Automobile Dealers Association.

Thirty-nine percent of people who purchase cars are influenced by an auto show, according to a nationwide survey, he said.

The shows also help dealers discern how to stock their sales floors.

“;Dealers have to purchase these cars. ... It's a huge decision, but they learn a lot by talking to people at these auto shows and seeing what the competition is bringing out,”; Rolf said.

Last year's 8.2 percent attendance increase was the only gain Motor Trend posted among its 24 auto shows. The jump did not result in higher vehicle sales, though, given the recession, increasing unemployment and other factors.

“;Last year was an anomaly because of the turmoil in the auto industry. It was impossible to predict anything,”; Rolf said.

Last year's show included a $25,000 giveaway, while this year's show included a $100,000 giveaway.

“;It was a very popular promotion. We had huge crowds,”; Rolf said.

Whether this year's winners will put that cash toward a vehicle purchase is unknown, but show sponsor First Hawaiian Bank has seen positive sales trends.

“;As the largest automobile bank lender, we definitely have seen sales activity picking up over the last three months,”; said Bob Harrison, bank president. The bank has sponsored the show for 33 years and will “;remain committed to support our local auto dealers during these challenging times,”; he said in a statement.